Last week I took a crowbar to some nails that held my backyard fence together, and I hurt my right arm. It feels like tennis elbow, which I’ve had a few times in the past, but I am left handed, and this is the first time I’ve had it happen on my right side. I recognized the symptoms, but checked online anyway. One of the listed symptoms of tennis elbow is that it hurts to pick up a cup a coffee. I also turned sixty-five this week. I couldn’t ignore the fact that on my sixty-fifth birthday, it hurt to pick up a cup of coffee.
Here’s the glitch; age had nothing to do with my sore arm. I cranked long and hard on those nails, and I would have hurt myself had I been twenty-five or forty-five. The only difference between then and now is that no one brought up my age when I younger. In years past, my wife and my friends would have said, “Of course, you hurt yourself. That was a stupid thing to do.” Today they say, “Of course, you hurt yourself. You’re old.” Apparently at a certain age, the ‘stupid’ part becomes assumed.
I suspect that all of us have birthdays that strike us as significant for some personal reason, but I can think of only three that make any difference to the institutions that we’ve created. At 16, we are allowed to drive. I still remember that I passed my driver’s test on the first try, but the DMV guy cautioned me that my dad’s Olds ’98 was too much power for a novice driver. At 18, at least in Wisconsin in 1972, I was allowed to drink legally. Also at 18 back in 1972, Vietnam became much more than the death toll count on the evening news. I was Draft Lottery No. 321. By the early 1970s, that was a number not likely to be called up. Do I remember my number because 3-2-1 is easy to remember or because the number is permanently etched into my brain? One of the unanswered questions of my life is what I would have done had I been drafted. Now at 65, I go on Medicare.
I hope no one interprets this blog entry as a lament about old age. Sore arms and comments about my age get trumped by the freedom of retirement. I write this blog only because I attended a writers’ conference and was told that I had a non-existent social media presence. I have time to write this blog only because I am retired.